Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, affects 5 to 10 percent of all women of reproductive age and is associated with infertility, irregular menstrual cycles, cardiovascular risks, insulin resistance and risk of diabetes, according to the Office on Women's Health. Many women who have PCOS also struggle with obesity, which can further complicate PCOS symptoms. Modifying your lifestyle by eating healthy and exercising can improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin, lower your blood sugar levels and normalize your hormone levels. Losing even 10 percent of your body weight can regulate your menstrual cycle.
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Fat and Protein
Fat is a critical part of a balanced diet, but where your fat comes from is important. Fats, particularly omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, should make up between 20 and 25 percent of your daily calories. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, walnuts and flaxseed. Diets high in monounsaturated fats are associated with greater weight loss for women who have PCOS. If you have PCOS, eating a high-protein, low-carb diet may aid in weight loss and improve blood sugar levels. Aim to eat between two and five servings of protein per day.
Complex Carbs and Fiber
Adding complex carbohydrates to your diet can help with insulin resistance associated with PCOS. Most complex carbs, such as whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, and starchy vegetables, are converted into blood sugar much more slowly than simple carbohydrates. This produces a weaker insulin response. Complex carbohydrates also tend to be high in fiber, which slows digestion, and helps you to feel full. Aim to get 30 to 50 grams of fiber per day.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. By increasing your fruit and vegetable intake, you can improve some symptoms of PCOS by lowering androgen levels in the body. Aim to get five portions of fruits and vegetables per day.
Chromium is an important mineral that helps your body break down and use fats and carbohydrates. Chromium is also involved in breaking down insulin, making you more sensitive to insulin when it’s released in the body. Chromium supplementation can help with glucose intolerance and improve blood sugar levels. The Institute of Medicine recommends women get 25 micrograms of chromium per day. Dietary chromium is found in beef, eggs, chicken, green peppers, apples, bananas and spinach. Talk with your health care provider before taking supplements.
Exercise can alleviate symptoms of PCOS and aid in weight loss. If you experience insulin resistance with PCOS, exercise will increase insulin sensitivity, which means that your body can use insulin more efficiently. Exercise can also reduce blood pressure and blood sugar and triglyceride levels.
- Nursing Times: Diagnosis and Treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- WomensHealth.gov: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Fact Sheet
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Dietary Composition in the Treatment of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Systematic Review to Inform Evidence-based Guidelines
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effects of Increased Dietary Protein-to-Carbohydrate Ratios in Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- MedlinePlus: Chromium in the Diet